My expansive pride still has me spending most of my day in "my life is so DIFFICULT" conversation with Jesus, but I wanted to share this amazing event that happened on Monday.
So Monday is Ballet lesson day. In in a series of freak events, Jon comes home from work early & dinner is actually cooked by 5:30, which means Hannie and I have a leisurely drive to her Ballet class at 5:45. I planned to drop her off at class and spent an hour frantically hunting around Whole Foods & Giant for the ever elusive bread flour which seems to be always missing from my regular grocery store's shelves.
"Don't forget to get Alexandra's phone number so we can invite her to your birthday party" I call out as she unbuckles her seat belt.
"Mom, I can't. You have to do it."
I look at her serious face. I think about the realistic possibility of a kindergartener getting all ten digits in the correct order. (City kids need to know the area code of their friends as well as the full regular number.) I sigh and park the car.
My vanity is sticking me in the eye. I broke my eyeglasses, (actually they were snapped off in an awkward place by an inquisitive 2 year old), just before my flight to Florida last week. My husband did an emergency patch job with half a chop stick and two bright red hair bands.
I felt the total Christian trooper during our trip among strangers. Now that we were home, and the reality of circumstances meaning no new glasses until late March, I was feeling very self-conscious. I didn't want to get out of the car and face Alexandra's mom looking so foolish.
Yet what can you do? You've got to do what God wants you to do, and not hide in your car outside of Ballet class.
So I go and get the phone number. Alexandra's mom ends up being a total sweetheart. I chat happily with a grandmother of another classmate and discover that Farsi and not Arabic is the language spoken in Iran. I feel so happy. This is why I love living in a city. You hang outside the community rec Ballet program and learn interesting things about far off cultures.
So all flush with my recent success, I decide to forgo the immediate plan to see if Whole Food carries bread flour, and instead enjoy a rare moment to watch Hannah at dance class without her younger siblings pulling me in 800 different directions.
I crumbled down on the floor because my feet hurt from being sun burnt. I started talking to Alexa's mother (a different child, and yet another reminder that I'm so happy Jon didn't insist that our Alex's legal name be the gorgeous masculine Russian name "Alexei", since all the girls of his age group in America seem to be Alexa, Alexis or Alexandra.)
This mom and I struck up a friendly conversation. We're talking about pre-school and home schooling. It turns out that the little girl in Hannah's class is her youngest. The mom has two older boys one in college and one in high school. I asked the question "how does your older son find it to practice his faith in college?" The mom had mentioned that she went to Catholic school as a child and I'm always curious about that university experience is going to work out for my kids.
Alexa's mom turns a different shade of white and says "Actually my husband is Jewish and my oldest son identifies himself more as a Jew than as a Christian." Now you all know how dear the Jewish faith is to my soul. So for the next fifteen minutes we have the super fascinating talk about Judaism and living in an inter-faith marriage.
I'm so excited. The lady is sitting on the side of me that has the broken glasses, but I've stopped caring. I'm so interested in what she has to say about her Life story.
Suddenly, and it was so random, I can't even remember how it dropped into the conversation, the lady says "You know the Archbishop has this welcome home invite campaign going on and I think he means me."
I felt this full weight of heavenly silence come over my soul. Everything excited and animated in me stopped. I listened to her with my whole soul.
Our Archbishop of Washington D.C. has printed invitations for each parishioner to invite a fallen away Catholic home for Easter. There are beautiful engraved invitations which say "Your Catholic family misses you. Please come back to the church" outside every doorway in every church in our diocese.
For someone to say that "I think this campaign means me," means something profound.
Out came this story, in the middle of a normal middle school hallway, of this woman who married her college sweetheart and stopped receiving the Eucharist 23 years ago.
She mentioned that "someone said that it would be easy to get approval for my marriage to a Jewish man."
The lady immediately got all agitated. "I believe that rules are rules. I don't take the Eucharist lightly. I don't just want to shop around with various priests and find one who will say what I want to hear."
I smiled. That's exactly the answer the church longs to hear. At the same time, as a former prodigal daughter myself, I also know how simple the "rules" are to convalidate marriages and how much God is the father longing to hug a returning prodigal daughter.
I didn't speak much out loud. I just made a mental note to grab one of those Archbishop invitations at church, jot down my parish's priest's email address, and bring it with me next Monday to Ballet class.
Outside in the cold, I asked her to give me her phone number. I thought Hannie could use an extra friend at her upcoming birthday party. While she jotted down a phone number on the back of a gas receipt, I asked if I could have the name of her friend who had recently died. A young mother who leaves an 8 year old and 12 year old boys behind. "Can you write down your friend's name so I can say a rosary for her."
This woman looked at me with utter shock. It was like I handed her a jewel. She was stunned.
Our girls were skipping around in their leotards in the cold, so we hurried away to get them into our respective cars.
I thought about that moment of beauty, which God just handed me. I can't tell you how many prayers from this woman's Catholic family members must have gone into her slipping out a hidden story in the middle of a school hallway. How I was directly in the middle of my reconsecration to Mary. How my parish priest happens to have recently studied under rabbis in Israel. How much our Archbishop must have prayed before launching this simple idea of printing invitations asking people to come home to the Catholic faith.
For the small price of overcoming my vanity about some broken glasses, I get to carry an invitation from my Archbishop to a new friend in Hannah's ballet class on Monday.
Please pray for her. Please pray for my in-laws and all of our dear friends who count themselves as "fallen away Catholics."